The Musings Of An Opinionated Sod [Help Me Grow!]

Can People Stop Referring To Themselves As Brands, They’re Not – They’re People.
February 19, 2008, 7:10 am
Filed under: Comment

Human Barcode Photo: Inkel

This post was brought to you by Jill – who is sick to the death of hearing people and the media talk this way – and I for one, back her wholeheartedly.

Is it any wonder so many in society are losing their ability to empathise and build meaningful relationships when their attitude seems to be these things all have a limited shelf-life and are instantly transferable?

The general rule with these people seems to be that when they no longer feel they’re directly benefiting from the association, they no longer feel the need to continue the association.

There’s a really interesting book that talks about this issue called Affluenza by a psychologist called Oliver James.

I have to say I don’t agree with everything he writes [sometimes it seems like an ‘ad’ for therapy &/or religion] however his view on how the ‘human brand’ mentality is fucking us up is fascinating – even though my industry has to sadly shoulder much of the blame.

I know this is going to make me sound a complete hippy [plus a hypocrite given I make my living in advertising] but I want to live a life … not a lifestyle.

That doesn’t mean I don’t want nice things – of course I do – but I’ll never let it be all that drives or guides me [or should I say, Jill will never let it be all that drives or guides me, ha ] because ultimately, I know you can never find true happiness or satisfaction from it.

Yep, that comment really makes me sound like a tosser doesn’t it – but what the hell – rather that than be a banker 🙂]

28 Comments so far
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Brand Campbell – now there’s a positioning challenge.

Comment by John

Personally I’d be happy if the word brand was only applied to livestock and subculturists like Billy and had never been connected with products and services – which of course is what “brands” are.

Comment by John

i totally agree with you, and jill. and i blame andy warhol and ogilvy for making celebrity and advertising sexy (and consequently a socially desirable state of mind).

Comment by lauren

“subculturists like billy?” i resemble that remark

Comment by Billy Whizz

oh for fuck sake, campbells back to his planning bollocks. i thought id sorted that out once and for all.

oh this is from jill? fucking interesting then.

actually i hate to agree with anyone “campbell” but i think this is bang on. just like when planners describe companies as people. theyre not people, theyre fucking companies and “pretending” to be george fucking clooney doesnt take away from the fact most of them treat their customers like a pile of fucking shit.

and as for you dodds.

everyone knows who campbell is so why are you saying he would be a positioning challenge? he is a fucking great example of people knowing exactly what he stands for, its the bastards like general motors or ski fucking yoghurt that would be the challenge.

sure he has the external beauty of a 1974 skoda, but inside hes a fucking diamond so lay off my mate or else.

fuck, im protecting campbell again. well its not all stupidity as youll all learn in a few months.

Comment by andy@cynic

I like this post and I even like Andy’s comment (about “George Clooney”, not the other stuff)
Lauren is right when she say’s Warhol and Ogilvy started the seed to all this “brand” mentality, but I think it has been increased thanks to the media who are continually talking about celebrities interms of brand/branding. I can see their point, but doing this undermines the humanity in the individual which leaves them bare to ridicule when they do something “un-brand” like, even though humans at their core, are flawed beasts.
I think Jill should write a proper blog, despite Rob’s attempt to destroy her character (not brand) via Jillyism, I know she is behind a lot of the ideas he and cynic have developed over the years 🙂

Comment by Pete




Andy is “defending my honour”. I think you’re right Pete, he MUST HAVE a fever, ha!

I agree with you Pete – media has been one of the biggest drivers of the “brand mentality” and given many in society see that as the ultimate expression of wealth and/or success, is it any surprise some refer to themselves in such a way?

I think the dehumanising factor is really interesting because people have been educated to see brands as ‘objects’ [for want of a much better term] so when a person/celebrity does something wrong, the masses have no hesitation on turning their back on them because the ‘human element’ has already gone from the relationship.

Maybe 🙂

Comment by Rob

Andy – the point about the challenge was that you can’t encapsulate it all in a single brand. I was using Rob as an example of his own point since he’s the one person all the readers have in common.

Comment by John

Why on earth are you trying to respond to Andy with a serious comment John. Unless you actively are trying to provoke him, you know he won’t give a shit.

I’ve told you this before, but you really shouldn’t comment on this blog when you’re tired from watching late night CSI re-runs.

Comment by Rob

I don’t normally spend much time here on my hubby’s other great love… and I don’t feel compelled to comment very often….

But in this case I have to say I’m kind of disappointed by the lack of rage in this post… (& I’ve noticed a disturbing increase in the use of smiley faces in posts from Rob, which is another issue that bothers me almost as much….)

This branding people stuff actually makes me feel physically ill. I even read an ‘article’ about a company who you can engage to develop your own personal brand.

I can’t put my finger on exactly what it is about this trend that makes me react so violently – and I’m not sure who to blame, so I just blame Rob as a representative of the industry that undoubtedly has to have had something to do with it.

So – honey – it’s all your fault, and if I EVER hear you refer to yourself as a brand you’re can add single to your list of brand values…

Comment by Jill

A company who you can engage to develop your own personal brand?

What a great idea – expect cynic DNA very soon!

[And you might not know the rules Jill as you tend to only come to this blog when you are having difficulty sleeping … but because my Mum – YOUR MOTHER IN LAW – comes here quite often, every time you swear you have to place a 🙂 immediately afterwards so that the evil of the statement is counteracted to Mummy-friendly levels]

But thanks for popping by – and hell, at least this post proves I listen to you which is more than most husbands do.

Well, according to Andy’s exes anyway.

Comment by Rob

the thing i hate about being an artist is that my name and my brand are very close to one and the same. if people know who i am, they know my work and they know the kinds of concepts i play in. (which i why i have a love-hate relationship with albrecht duerer and andy warhol). to a degree, a huge chunk of me is a brand.

so while i would love to rage with you jill, it would be entirely hypocritical: i play the game (to a degree) because i have to.

[and perhaps this is why the other chunk of who i am is a “subculturalist like billy”, to balance it all out]

Comment by lauren

I think that’s Jill’s point Lauren – you’re not a brand, you’re a talented human being and if others refer to you [or your work] in that way, that’s very different to YOU thinking/refering to yourself like that because when that happens, there are several potential ramifications including …

1. Dehumanising you.
2. Potentially influencing how you think/act.
[and not always in a good way]
3. Turns you into a commodity, not a human.

I’m sure there’s more – and I know there are plenty of pro-sides to it – but it’s all about perspective and she/I thinks that if you consider yourself a brand, that’s not in the best interests of you or society as a whole.

But then I would say that, she’s my missus! 🙂

Comment by Rob

one could argue that seeing yourself as a brand is just the next step in maslows piramid or the likes. just another layer added to human persona’s.

It’s just that the ability to compartmentalize it and let it out of the box at the apropriate time is lost on most. Just like u are a man/women, from certain backround, someones wife/son/brother daugter etc, u are all those things but at certain times…

could you at some times be best served to see yourself as a “brand”?.
if only to get in to right state of mind to achieve something.

so it’s not hypocritical, or bad or’s just..

Just like people sometimes explain their personality, or others, by discribing a fictional person (like: oh…he is just like xxx from that show, let’s call it personality high concept)(and I agree it is very sad when that happens).

actually when you consider that the geiko brand has humanized some values by making a tv show from ad characters, and if people identify with people (real or fictional) (and I am aware that this very flawed arguing), and the audience sees somthing reflected in the caveman show about themselves, geiko is indeed more human than we realize, want to except…or something, i think

Comment by niko

Hi Niko – I know what you’re saying, but if we go around in life focused on how others see our ‘brand’, we’re going to end up a pretty fucked up society who actually DON’T do things for fear of damaging the delicate veneer we’ve surrounded ourselves with.

Funny how the people who describe themselves as a ‘brand’ tend to be the ones who haven’t achieved anything of note quite as of yet 🙂

Comment by Rob

Delightfully bitchy there Robert, like that phrase that say’s its such a shame all the people that can solve the World’s problems decided to drive taxis, cut hair and write blogs. 🙂

Comment by Bazza

Cheeky sod – but sadly accurate, ha!

Comment by Rob

Careful Andy, any more praise of Rob and you’ll be paying him a chunk of your wages each month too 😉

Seriously though, the media loves having people to build up and knock down as quickly as possible.

Comment by Rob Mortimer

Can’t agree with Niko’s implication that viewing oneself as a brand is part of the path to self-actualisation. The latter is about how you know yourself, “branding” is about how you want to be seen or think people want to see you in order to be liked and that’s why Jill is right.

And Lauren, I thought you were immune to it, but it’s clear you spent too much time with advertising folk while in London and are in early stage of pseudoenza. But you’re not too far gone, you never used the b word in reference to the work/art you dragged me to in various galleries so there is hope for you remaining an SLB.

Comment by John

Dragged you to?

Lauren could of charged you a hefty wedge to be seen in her company and you’d of still gone!

Comment by Rob

I am an onion.

Comment by Marcus

Hahaha …

I’d of prefered it if you were a garlic – leaves a more powerful impression.

Comment by Rob

I think jill makes exceedingly good points.

Comment by John

whats happened? has emah said no and so youve decided to crack onto robs bird. low shot dodds, you know how desperate she must be to get away from his evil clutches.

Comment by andy@cynic

“Funny how the people who describe themselves as a ‘brand’ tend to be the ones who haven’t achieved anything of note quite as of yet”


and doddsy, thank you. but the insidious thing is that it’s not the verbalisation of the branding attitude amongst artists, it’s the thinking – we all operate on that level. especially the ones i dragged you to (may i introduce you to mr hirst TM).

Comment by lauren

I hope you know that wasn’t meant as a dig at you Lauren – I love you, especially after you were so nice to me [ha!] – however the point is somewhat valid don’t you think?

Don’t people who publically refer to themselves as a brand tend to be the ones who have not [so far] achieved the level of success they seek?

Maybe I’m wrong – but I just hate the way it leads to the dehumanisation of individuals and gets them to see themselves as a commodity – a commodity that needs to constantly adapt itself to maintain popularity to others who – in the big scheme of things – don’t matter one jot!

And for the record, I have purposefully stayed away from the issue raised by Andy re: Marcus – not because I am not deeply repulsed or angry about it – but because I AM deeply repulsed and angey about it, and want to write about it sometime soon.

Comment by Rob

i realise that you were referring to the bunch of idiot fucks who do refer to themselves explicitly as brands – it just came straight after i had mentioned that there’s the grey area of real people like artists (and musicians, mind) who do operate on a branding principle for their careers.

thousands of trees have been killed in the process of discussing the commodification of artists and musician, so i’ll just leave it be for now. can’t wait to read your quiet little piece on the werbeblogger biz.

Comment by lauren

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